It will take the government two years just to list all federal programs and that’s “not a way to run a government,” the Comptroller of the United States told Congress Wednesday.
A hint of why compiling such a list will be so time-consuming is seen in two of the seemingly unrelated subjects that came up during the hearing – voodoo dolls and federal data.
Office of Management and Budget officials were required by a law passed five years ago – the Government Performance and Results Modernization Act – but they opted instead to wait until Congress approved the Data Act. Congress did so in 2014. The Data Act requires the federal government to standardize and publish spending-related reports.
But there is still no standard definition or list of federal programs. That’s a problem, said Comptroller Gene Dodaro during the joint meeting of the information technology and government operations subcommittees of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on the Data Act.
“This is not a way to run a government,” Dodaro said. “You need to have that information.”
David Mader, the man President Obama appointed as OMB’s controller, told the committee that his office won’t even start defining federal programs until they’ve first defined all underlying federal activities, so his “sense is that that won’t be finished until after May of 2017.” Obama will no longer be president then.
Mader’s assessment drew groans from committee members.
“Whoa,” said Tim Walberg, R-Michigan. “Mr. Chairman, I guess I would say, with the Taxpayer Right to Know proposal, and with the Data Act in place now, I would encourage you to bump that up, to get those programs defined. That’s the only way we gain control, as I understand it, gain control on what the size, scope, cost and responsibility of government is.”
The Taxpayers Right to Know Act, which was approved last week by the oversight committee, clarifies the definition of a government program, something Walberg said is long overdue.
“For me, it doesn’t take two years to map that,” said Rep. William Hurd, R-Texas, who is chairman of the information technology panel.
Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N. Car., said the federal government’s study of hungry and angry spouses stabbing voodoo dolls, mentioned in former Sen. Tom Coburn’s ‘Wastebook’ last year, illustrates why Congress needs to know exactly how federal agencies are spending money.
“To spend $331,000 to stick pens in a voodoo doll may be important to someone, but when we have so many unbelievable needs out there, to make an informed decision, we need data,” said Meadows, who is chairman of the oversight subcommittee.
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